How Oxytocin Changes Behaviour

How Oxytocin Changes Behavior

Oxytocin is a hormone crucial in various life processes such as lactation, sexual pleasure, maternal behaviour and social bonding. The hormone is mainly produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream or other parts such as spinal cord and brain via pituitary gland to influence behavior.  Initially, the primary roles of oxytocin hormone were seen during childbirth and lactating. It was observed to stimulate womb contractions during childbirth as well as inducing labour. During breastfeeding, oxytocin influences the flow of milk to the breast (Galbally, Lewis, IJzendoorn, 2011). In men, oxytocin stimulates sperm movement and testosterone production. However, more research has disclosed more roles associated with its effects on the brain. To many, the hormone was referred as love hormone.

The newly conducted research on the hormone is to uncover the role it plays in the regulation of the function of the brain. According to Marsa (2015), researchers have found out that, oxytocin plays an essential role in the brain related activities and behaviors. According to the research, oxytocin plays a critical role in regulating behavior and social cognition. Moreover, the hormone plays a role in stress-related behavior as well as anxiety.

According to the newly conducted research results on the rodent, it was found that when a female rodent meets with a male partner, they form a bond forever (Marsa, 2015). This behavior depends on the amount of oxytocin release in the brain. Such recovery encourages further research on to determine whether this hormone can influence social behaviors on a human. The hormone was sprayed into the nose to observe its effects on the human brain. The results obtain indicated that the hormone altered the brain activity particularly in the regulation of fear responses and processing social cues. This research is exciting to perform. For instance, injecting of rodents with the hormone caused them to behave differently. Virgin rodent started looking for mates.

The experiment on the role of oxytocin in the brain functionality is essential to everyone who is curious about social aspect of people (Marsa, 2015). The knowledge of the discovery equips us with the new idea of the behavior changes. The new study discovers that human beings brain is triggered by oxytocin to behave differently in the case of stress, maternal behaviour and social cognitive responses. Additionally, the research explains how the brain internalizes information to influence behaviour.

Oxytocin affects maternal behaviour and bonding. The hormone gives the mother the ability to care for their infants (Galbally, Lewis, IJzendoorn, 2011). According to the research, oxytocin level is found to be high in pregnant and lactating mothers. This level alters the mother behaviour toward the baby. For instance, a mother with children finds themselves singing sweet songs to the infant, feeding or bathing them in a specific way. To ascertain that oxytocin was responsible for bonding, research was conducted on the kids with their biological parent and those in the orphanage. The oxytocin level was found to be high in the children with the biological mother than in those in orphanage homes. Researchers commented that it was difficult for children in children’s home to build a trustful relationship with the caregivers despite the excellent support offered to the. Thus, high level of oxytocin in mother and infant cement a strong bond. Bosch and Neumann (2012) argued that oxytocin is responsible for maternal behaviors. Their experiment revealed that a virgin mouse did not respond to cries of the babies, and their level of oxytocin hormone was found to be low.

Further studies show that oxytocin is responsible for behavior change during social stress and separation. A study was conducted on females who had separated with their siblings that found low oxytocin level. The results showed that there was a greater level of anxiety, depression and stress. Andari et al. (2010) suggested that administration of Oxytocin would assist people with emotional and social difficulties or deficit to manage their situations. Other emotional behaviors affected by oxytocin are building trust on strangers, psychological stability, and relaxation.

Another role of oxytocin in behavior change is observed in mentally ill patients. Administration of oxytocin injection to the psychiatric patients has been found promising since most of the mental problems are found be associated with depression and stress and less social cognition. However, the injection of oxytocin was found to be more efficient in patients who suffered disorders such as depression, autism spectrum borderline personality, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The administration of oxytocin improved emotion recognition and reactivate physiological stress (Andari, et al., 2010). However, the effects of the Oxytocin in patients were found to react differently on their behaviour depending on the situations.

However, the release of oxytocin by cells is controllable through the positive feedback mechanism. The mechanisms trigger for more release of the hormone. For example, in milk ejection reflex, sucking of the breast by babies stimulates secretion of the hormone to the blood causing milk release. Production of the hormone may stop after the baby stops breastfeeding.  In some cases, oxytocin production can be low or high. However, no clear impact has to be published on the effects of too much production of the hormone in the human. However, too little of oxytocin have been associated with autistic spectrum and autism disorders treated through administration of oxytocin hormone.

It does appear that oxytocin has an essential role in controlling the stress regulation, bonding processes. The discussion above shows that oxytocin plays a key role sidelining the brain with certain social behaviors. Olff, et al. (2013) asserts that the hormone’s benefits include such as social bonding, retrieval of autobiography memories as well as regulation of stress reactivity. Oxytocin has also been shown to play a crucial role in the promoting mental health.






Andari, E., Duhamel, J. R., Zalla, T., Herbrecht, E., Leboyer, M., & Sirigu, A. (2010). Promoting social behavior with oxytocin in high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(9), 4389-4394.

Bosch, O. J. (2011). Maternal nurturing is dependent on her innate anxiety: the behavioral roles of brain oxytocin and vasopressin. Hormones and behavior, 59(2), 202-212.

Bosch, O. J., & Neumann, I. D. (2012). Both oxytocin and vasopressin are mediators of maternal care and aggression in rodents: from central release to sites of action. Hormones and behavior, 61(3), 293-303.

Galbally, M., Lewis, A. J., IJzendoorn, M. V., & Permezel, M. (2011). The role of oxytocin in mother-infant relations: a systematic review of human studies. Harvard review of psychiatry, 19(1), 1-14.

Marsa, L. (2015). How Oxytocin changes behavior. Discover Magazine. Retrived from

Olff, M., Frijling, J. L., Kubzansky, L. D., Bradley, B., Ellenbogen, M. A., Cardoso, C. & van Zuiden, M. (2013). The role of oxytocin in social bonding, stress regulation and mental             health: An update on the moderating effects of context and interindividual differences. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(9), 1883-1894.

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